PRUNES – Nutritional Profile
Prunes are dried plums that take around 3 to 4 weeks to dry if left in the sun. California is the current biggest producer of prunes however forecasts indicate that Chile may overtake them in the next few years.
A 100g portion contains 240 calories, 64g of carbohydrates, 7g of fibre, 38g of sugars and 2.2g of protein. The prunes also contain 0.6mg of Vitamin C, 0.43mg of Vitamin E and 59.5µg of Vitamin K. Vitamins in group B are also found as 1.882mg of Niacin, 0.186mg of Riboflavin, 0.051mg of Thiamin and 4µg of Folate are present.
Prunes also contain an array of minerals. Calcium (43mg) , Copper (0.281mg), Iron (0.93mg), Sodium (2mg), Magnesium (41mg), Manganese (0.299mg), Phosphorous (69mg), Potassium (732mg), Selenium (0.3µg) and Zinc (0.44mg) are all present.
PRUNES – Health Benefits
Prunes are known as an antioxidant superfood and a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University in Boston ranked prunes the top food in terms of antioxidant capacity. The researchers discovered that antioxidant content of prunes is more than double that of other high ranking foods such as blueberries or raisins. The consumption of antioxidants helps the body to fight off “free radicals”, a harmful body that can lead to cell damage, clogging of arteries or even some forms of cancers.
The high source of dietary fibre found in plums is not only great for digestion but also helps to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the body.
Soluble fibre slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach and therefore spreads the absorption of sugar into the blood stream over a much longer period of time. Soluble fibre also increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin so can increase the effectiveness of insulin already in the body.
Excess bile in the intestine is soaked up by the soluble fibre found in prunes. In order to compensate for this, the body must then use cholesterol to create more bile, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol found in the rest of the body. This lower cholesterol reduces the possibility of heart disease and other problems such as high blood pressure.
A vitamin found in prunes that is beneficial to the eyes is Vitamin A. The carotenoids found in prunes protect the cells in the eyes from harmful blue light wavelengths. Consuming prunes therefore lowers the chance of age related problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
PRUNES – Product History
The recorded point of origin for prunes is Western Asia bordering the Caspian Sea. From there, plums were dried and carried westward where they thrived in Southern, Central and Western Europe. Migration was thought to have helped the prune industry spread so efficiently.
In 1856 plum trees were taken to North America by Louis Pellier, a French nurseryman who travelled to America looking for gold. His brother, Pierre, joined him after the hunt for gold was unsuccessful and began to bring more cuttings to start up his own plum orchard. By 1900, approximately 90,000 acres of California was covered by plum orchards.
Whilst prunes were gaining popularity in America, Australia also started to grow prunes. The cooler climate was very successful at growing plums and in 1927 a production of 1000 tonnes was recorded.